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Ingredients That We Don’t Use

The below ingredients are those that you will not find in an Elixseri Serum. We have not included here any “non-serum” ingredients such as paba or chemical sunscreens, which of course would never appear in our products.

Included in this list are also many ingredients that sometimes offer great benefits to the skin (such as silicones), and are deemed as “safe for use in cosmetics” by several professional organisations (such as glycols), but we have chosen not to use them in our products. This is because they are either too questionable in terms of toxicity, they pose sustainability issues for us on some level, or are quite simply, not necessary.

ALCOHOL: SD alcohol, isopropyl alcohol or alcohol denat

Alcohol is a drying and irritating solvent that can deplete the skin’s natural hydro-lipid barrier and alter skin’s natural flora. Though commonly used in skin care for product stability or aesthetics, it can react harmfully with other ingredients and with environmental factors like UV rays, possibly promoting brown spots and premature aging of skin.

Fatty alcohols such as cetyl, stearyl, and cetearyl alcohol do not cause the same effects and can sometimes be beneficial to the skin. We may someday decide to include fatty alcohols in one of our products.

AMMONIA-based ingredients: ammonium chloride, ammonium hydroxide

Ammonia, Ammonium Hydroxide and Ammonium Chloride are used in a large number of products to function as ph adjusters or to increase viscosity. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has stipulated that Ammonia can cause irritation and redness when in contact with skin. And the World Health Organisation has cited that continued contact will dry the skin, damage skin cells and eventually cause serious skin complications. Enough said.

POLYQUATERNIUM is typically an ammonium-based compound and sometimes called a “quat”. Quat’s make up a diverse family of compounds, each with its own, spectrum of properties and always associated with a number (-5, -10, -44). The safety profiles of different quats are not all the same. We use polyquaterium-37 (a hydrophobic film-forming polymer) in one serum as a conditioning agent. Our polyquaternium contains no ammonia compounds and is classified as a non-irritant in personal care products across the board.

ALUMINUM: alumina (derivative), magnesium aluminum silicate, aluminum starch

Aluminum is the most common element on Earth and is a known systemic toxicant at high doses. Aluminum-based raw materials are used extensively in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter (OTC) drug products. In cosmetics, certain compounds with aluminium can function as pigments and thickening agents, and in many cases have been proved safe. Nevertheless, we choose to avoid them in our serums.

BHA / BHT: butylated hydroxytoluene, butylated hydroxyanisole

These are synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives in cosmetics and food. BHA and BHT can induce allergic reactions in the skin. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies BHA as a possible human carcinogen. The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption has also listed BHA as a Category 1 priority substance, based on evidence that it interferes with hormone function. Japan has banned BHA from food. Enough reason for us to avoid them.

COAL TAR

Coal tar is in fact an old–fashioned remedy used to treat psoriasis of the skin. However, coal tar can make the skin more sensitive to UV light. This ingredient is banned in EU Cosmetics.

DEA: Cocamide DEA, DEA Lauryl Sulfate, Lauramide DEA, Linoleamide DEA, Oleamide DEA

Diethanolamine (DEA) is a common wetting agent used in skin care and cosmetics to produce a nice consistency. Combined with other ingredients, DEA can produce nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA), which is a carcinogenic compound easily absorbed through the skin.

ETHANOL-based, synthetic preservatives: Butoxyethanol, Phenoxyethanol

Butyoxyethanol, is an ether alcohol used in skin care primarily to dissolve other substances and to decrease the viscosity. It is also found in a number of industrial and household cleaning products such as floor strippers. Need we say more? Phenoxyethanol is an oily, slightly sticky liquid used as a preservative in a wide variety of skin care products. Possible side effects of using the chemical include skin irritation, allergic reactions, inflammation, dermatitis, and a severe skin reaction in people dealing with Eczema. Japan and the EU have restricted the use of this chemical in cosmetics, so we choose to avoid it.

ESSENTIAL OILS

Essential oils usually enjoy a positive reputation in natural products, but our scientists tend to focus only on the risk associated with these ingredients. Due to the mode of extraction, usually distillation, essential oils are rarely “pure” and may contain a variety of volatile molecules such as terpenes and terpenoids, phenol-derived aromatic components and aliphatic components. In addition, their use directly on the skin often leads to free-radical explosions that can damage cellular DNA. Lastly, many essential oils are proven skin irritants and as such are not really bio-available. Since our serums are water based, we only use bio-identical oils for their line smoothing or comfort benefits. Our fragrance (“parfum”) is not made with essential oils but rather with extremely low concentrations of single-smelling substances that are bio-identical and 100% allergen-free.

GLYCOLS, synthetic origin: butylene, propylene, polyethylene, pentalene

Though naturally produced glycols (sugars) are known to be nature’s best storage for moisture during times of drought, not many of these natural forms are used in cosmetics. Instead, manufacturers create glycols from a petroleum base. They ensure stability or retain moisture, but they are rarely from plants. We do not use any Petrolatum-based or synthetically produced glycols.

HYDROQUINONE

This is a known skin lightening ingredient that is used in many cosmetic skin lightening products. Its primary function is to reduce melanin production in the skin. The ingredient is banned in the EU for use in cosmetics, and some research has shown that continued use of this ingredient will lead to a thinning and weakening of the skin, making it even more susceptible to UV damage.

IODOPROPYNYL BUTYLCARBAMATE (IPBC)

IPBC is a preservative that helps prevent mold, bacteria, and other germs from spreading and is effective against a wide variety of microorganisms. IPBC is a suspected toxin on multiple levels and the European Union limits the use of this preservative in cosmetics at a maximum concentration of 0.02% in rinse-off products, and 0.01% in leave-on products, so it has made our list of ingredients we don't use.

LEAD: lead acetate, chromium, thimerosal, sodium hexametaphosphate

Lead is a mineral that occurs naturally in the earth's crust and is present in almost everything in small doses. It is sometimes present in mineral-based products for an effect on pigmentation. By now we have all heard about health concerns caused by lead but quite honestly, the small amounts found in any cosmetics pose almost no threat to humans. However, better safe than sorry right? In serums, this ingredient is fairly easy to avoid.

MERCURY: mercurous chloride, calomel, mercuric, mercurio

Like lead, Mercury is a naturally occurring substance in the earth which can be extremely toxic. The FDA and EU commission limit mercury in personal care products to extremely tiny trace doses. Unfortunately, it is sometimes used as an ingredient in “exotic” skin care products intended for skin lightening and anti-ageing. But not in our serums.

METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE

Methylisothiazolinone, or MIT as it is sometimes known, is one of the most irritating chemical preservatives. It is capable of killing living organisms such as bacteria (so completely at odds with our philosophy on microbiome), in a supposedly selective manner. This additive is most commonly used in shampoos and due to its reputation, is only approved for use in rinse-off formulas and at low concentrations on almost every continent. Not for us.

MINERAL OIL

Mineral oil, also known as liquid paraffin, is derived from petroleum and cannot be synthesised by the skin. It is a cheap alternative to other nourishing or softening ingredients, and is far less bio-identical. Mineral Oils can block pores and diminish the skin's ability to breath and function. Marina notices immediately when her clients have been using too much mineral oil on their skin. We strongly avoid use of all petroleum-based ingredients, choosing instead natural extracts and oils that are similar to the skin's own sebum.

PARABENS: benzylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben

Parabens are synthetic preservatives that have been widely used since the 1950s in foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and personal care products to prevent bacteria growth. In the 1990s, parabens were deemed xenoestrogens – agents that mimic estrogen in the body – and in some studies linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues. Consumer backlash since that time has forced raw material providers to find safer alternatives. And with recent advances in chemistry, there is no reason to use chemicals from the 50’s that may be harmful. We are not taking sides on the paraben controversy until more information is available. We are just trying to make safer choices.

PEG'S: polyethylene glycol, PPG'S: polypropylene glycol

PEGs are chemical compounds of petroleum origin sometimes mixed with fatty acids and fatty alcohols to create ingredients that can moisturize, keep products stable, and enhance the penetration of other ingredients. Widespread testing has found many impurities present in various PEG compounds that are linked to serious illnesses. PEGs are often followed by numbers, which indicate molecular weight. But PEG’s of all sizes may penetrate through sensitive skin with a compromised barrier function and lead to irritation. PPGs are more hydrophobic than PEGs and this is the reason why they are partly used as replacement for mineral oils. We choose to avoid both.

PHTHALATES: diethyl phthalate (DEP)

Phthalates are commonly found in plastics, are a frequent component of synthetic fragrances, and are sometimes used in cosmetics as lubricants. They have recently been classified as endocrine disrupters. DEP is the only phthalate typically used in cosmetic formulations today. It is prepared by reacting phthalic acid with methyl alcohol, ethyl alcohol and butyl alcohol, respectively, which sounded quite scary to us. We don’t quite understand what phthalates are but fortunately, we do not need them in our products.

SILICONES: dimethicone, methicone

Silicones are substances that are widely used in cosmetics as emollients to give products a soft, smooth texture. Synthesized cosmetic grade silicones are derived from minerals known to have extremely low allergen occurrences, and are thus classified as safe in cosmetics. Most of us can by now recognise silicone containing formulas from their silky, luxurious feel. However, no one can claim that silica-based ingredients are bio-identical as they are semi-occlusive and not easily absorbed by the skin. This may lead to clogged pores and blackheads, and possibly irritation in some cases of continued use. We think of silicones as the “one-night stand” of cosmetic ingredients, feeling great but not offering anything substantial to the skin. And though studies show that silicones are safe for use on the skin, there are recent concerns that they arebio-accumulative and possibly harmful to the environment. Since our serums are water based we have chosen not to use silicones and can substitute with natural oils.

SYNTHETIC COLOURS

The most common synthetic colours used in cosmetics are called FD&C colours and they are derived from coal tar, which in turn is a by-product of petroleum. They are labelled FD&C followed by a colour and a number. (Example: FD&C Red No. 6 / D&C Green No. 6.) In addition to coal tar, cosmetic colours can also be made from chromium oxide and aluminum powder. Synthetic colours are believed to be cancer-causing agents. Our serums may not all be milky white, but they are free from these nasties.

SULFATES: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)

Sulfates are synthetic ingredients partially based on sulfur, which is derived from petrolatum or other sources. Some sulfates have coconut at their origin, but are usually combined with another synthetic compound within the formula. While most sulfates are not sensitizing molecules that cause allergic reactions per se, they are irritants and in some people can temporarily aggravate the skin, causing redness, dryness and itching. On top of that, they are absorbed into the skin, which for us is a big no-no when the ingredient is not natural.

TRIETHANOLAMINE / TEA

Triethanolamine, another ammonia based substance, is used to balance pH or provide lubrication in cosmetic preparations. Triethanolamine can severely irritate the skin and disrupt its immune response. Also, it turns into a carcinogen after reacting with nitrosating agents and could be toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time.

UREA’s: hydroxyethyl, diazolidinyl, imidazolidinyl

Urea is a naturally occurring substance in our own skin that is an important hydrator, representing 7% of the natural moisturizing factors in the stratum corneum. But urea compounds used in cosmetics are synthetic, formed from ammonia and carbon dioxide. Hydroxyethyl urea is a potent humectant and considered safe as a cosmetic ingredient. The others are common preservatives and anti-bacterials that have been shown to cause contact dermatitis (American Academy of Dermatology), and when combined with some other preservatives, they can release formaldehyde and are considered toxic. We will never use diazolidinyl orimidazolidinyl urea in our serums, and because it is ammonia based, we choose to avoid hydroxyethyl urea as well.